I've been asked by a few people how to do patterns on furniture to make it more high-end.. so I am going to divulge a few secrets on this post just for you ;)
The first thing is, I do mostly make my own patterns, stencils and decorations, but if you don't find you are much of an experienced draw-er (technical term ;) ...) anything from a book, wall paper, fabric or card works. Black and white clip art with solid lines is the next best thing for beginners. Copy-right free clip art is all over the web. If you have Microsoft office, they have a great on-line supply. Also, Dover has some great stuff but those you have to pay for. For best results, think bold clean lines such as these.
You are welcome to copy these. I found them somewhere on-line. I wish I could remember where...
Besides clip art or a design you'll need:
*large sheets of paper
*a ball point pen
*a watercolor pencil
* a bit of time
Once you have your image ( I am drawing a wheat motif here for an example), set that aside.
Go to your piece of furniture next. This is important especially on curved surfaces.I use large sheets of thin drawing paper, like the kind that is super cheap and comes in big rolls that the kids draw on. Ikea is good for that. Take one of your kids old gacky crayons and do a grave-rubbing style impression of the edge. This will help you set up you pattern so you know exactly how it will lay on your furniture. I do this for odd-shaped door fronts and curved surfaces a lot. A square edge is much easier to work with.
Cut it out in the exact shape. If your piece of furniture is bigger than the paper, tape sheets together..
Then..... on a large window or sliding door, tape your initial printed pattern to the door.
Then place your furniture template over the top, the window will act as a light box so you can see your pattern from underneath.
Trace over the top with a pencil. Once you trace the entire thing. reposition your paper to how you would like the pattern to repeat.
Trace that and move it again. You don't have to do a single repeating pattern either. You can layer your images how ever you like. And don't just think edges, but edges, middles, doors drawers, sideways, frontways, upside down and backwards :)..... I thought it better to start simply.
Once your pattern is completely done on your template, step back, look at it, see if there is anything you would like to change or add. After this step if you run out of time -because life goes on and sometimes they don't nap long enough!-. It's a good spot to take a break and pick it up again later..
Then with a WATERCOLOR pencil (a special pencil watercolor artists use, it pretty much dissolves in water) rub the entire back side of the a pattern with a shade close to your paint color, but bold enough to see. Press hard, you want it to be thick enough on there to transfer to the surface. You can get these pencils an any art supply store for about a dollar. They are amazing and have many uses besides just art. I like to make my nail holes to hang things because they pretty much wash off the walls.
Once you finish going over the reverse side of the pattern (you may have to re- sharpen several times.) flip it over and tape it securely to your surface.
Trace the entire pattern with a pen with a roller tip. It will be very light. Lift a tiny flap while you are doing it very carefully to make sure you are pressing hard enough.
If you need to, go over it once the entire thing is traced again with your watercolor pencil.
Then, the hard part is finished (another good stopping point). You are ready to paint, Just follow your lines!
If you have any questions or if something doesn't make sense, feel free to ask! I hope this helps! I'll go over improving on plain pattern soon too!